5 things I didn’t expect from life after cancer

Cancer survivorship is not exactly what I thought it would be. It has brought both unexpected hardship and indescribable joy to my life. But the more I speak with others who have faced cancer, the more I see repeated patterns in our lives about making the transition between active cancer treatment and post-treatment life. Here are five things I didn’t expect from my first year-and-a-half of being cancer-free. 1. Cancer has long-term side effects. I don’t know why I thought I could just “go back to normal” after sarcoma treatment. Because for the last year and a half, I have practically lived in my doctors’ offices, seeking ways to manage my chronic back pain. Some days, I literally sit down and cry because it hurts so much. Others, I am reminded of what a gift it is just to be alive. But always, my own experience helps me stay empathetic to what other people are going through. 2. It’s a misconception that everything is OK now. When you move from active treatment to post-treatment, an invisible shift happens. In the eyes of others, cancer-free = all good. The expectation is that since you don’t have cancer anymore, everything about your physical, mental and emotional health must be OK, too. Yet your mind and heart are still processing the experience, and your body is still healing. Before my own cancer diagnosis, I was as guilty of thinking this way as anyone. I heard “cancer-free” in relation to my friends and family members and automatically breathed a sigh of relief. Back then, I didn’t know any better. But I also didn’t...